Category: <span>Gardening</span>

Lets pretend that it is the middle of July and we are in the Amalfi coast enjoying a Caprese salad in the not-so-quiet-any-longer seaside town of Sorrento.



You can almost believe that we were there this weekend from this picture… but alas, the basil is from our garden, the tomatoes are sadly hothouse, but the mozzarella, authentic. This salad dressed in balsamic and a great olive oil from Napa was just enough to transport Evan and me to June 2009 when we visited the Amalfi coast on our way from Rome to Sicily.

A long weekend is just what was needed at our house. A long, leisurely weekend where we could stay-cation knowing that there would be nowhere to rush to and no traffic jams to be stuck in. We prepared well by stocking up on groceries and to-do lists, inviting my parents down for a few days to help with Sophia while we got a handle on spring cleaning. My eyes dance with pleasure every time I walk into my closet now — the shoes all organized, the purses neatly stacked away in their cloth cases.

The weather, too, did not disappoint holding the temperature steady in the mid 70ies most of the time. That in itself is surprising for this area given the time of year. We re-introduced Sophia to gardening this year and she planted her own flowers and a few pea plants. She’s been diligently watering them and everything in the yard every chance she gets.




We also broke out our new sandbox — well, new to us. I can’t say that I am a huge fan of sand boxes, but I know Sophia enjoys playing in one and so we finally got some sand and she had a great time.



The spring cleaning and all that time outdoors surely whetted our appetites for something delicious and Evan didn’t disappoint with his stir fried beef with black bean sauce and fried rice.

MemHolidayWeekend2The days off flew by too quickly but the end of Memorial Day signifies the semi-official beginning of summer, of great weather, great produce and more time outdoors.


Cookery Gardening Hubby Cooks Life

Whew… and what a busy and delicious weekend it was. I guess we missed being home over the weekend having been gone for the past two and so we both rushed home from work with bags full of groceries and had every plan to stay, relax and cook. The weather has been beautiful and that has influenced both our time outdoors and our menu.

Before I tell you about the menu and all the fun things we did, I cannot in good faith hold back the fact that Evan has officially indoctrinated Sophia into the club of Popcorn Connoisseurs.


As you can see, she is deliberating on whether she should have yet another perfectly popped corn morsel. Not just any popcorn, but Evan’s special, home-made popcorn too. It was a huge hit and I am glad that they have yet another thing they can share. In fact, I am not sure who was more excited about the popcorn, Evan or Sophia. In the end, I am sure her love of this snack was always a foregone conclusion. She is so much like him, it was only a matter of time!

As for what we did the rest of the time? There was fun at the big playground with a castle, a pirate’s boat and an adventure course. There was also a trip to the nursery to get some tomato, pepper and herb plants which was followed first by fervent planting and then serious groans from some sore backs (actually, just mine, but for good reason!). This year, Sophia has really embraced gardening and was so very happy to plant each and every lettuce and snap peas.

While not planting or running around the playgrounds, we stayed home, watched Cinderella and cooked. There were Evan’s obligatory asian-style, barely cooked snow peas,


and an old-fashioned burger that we made by grinding the meat ourselves (yes, it does make a difference) … with some oven fries.


They were chased by homemade rhubarb and raspberry frozen yogurt

MD6 and … because I already had the ice cream machine plugged in, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add a little variety; I made a Mango cardamom frozen yogurt, too.

MD2That is topped with basil flowers, of course!


These are farmer’s cheese shortbread cookies that I used to love as a child. I had these vivid memories of my mom making them and since this weekend we celebrate Mothers, I thought it appropriate to make something that brings me such warm memories of my own mom.

Are you with me? Oh yes, moving on from sweet and Russian-themed to spicy and Mexican to Breakfast Burritos we made for lunch …

MD3… and finishing off with these amazing chicken fajitas…

MD8topped with roasted peppers and onions and garlicky, cilantro dressing, sour cream and guacamole.

This weekend was absolutely splendid and oh-so-delicious. I just we didn’t live so far away from our families and could share the spread with them.


Cookery Dessert Flavors Gardening Hubby Cooks Life Mom's Cooking

I am pretty sure I won’t jinx it when I say that Spring is finally here. Our daffodils are in full bloom and the weather was spectacularly glorious this weekend. We took full advantage of the outdoors knowing that it will be too hot and humid in just one short month. As such, a trip to a flower nursery and a new playground were a must on Saturday. Sophia loved all the flowers and helped us with seed selections for planting in our  little vegetable garden. We will be gardening again, albeit on a smaller scale and with produce that requires little maintenance (think peas and lettuces).

WeekendingLight2As usual we cooked a bit, but made lighter, easier dishes than those that have been de rigueur over the last few, cold months. Something about the glorious sunshine, warmer temperatures and overall better moods stipulated fresh, brighter and spicier flavors. So… there were coconut-lime tacos and this dry-seared shrimp with an orange, cucumber salad dressed with a touch of mint and cilantro. So fresh and so flavorful.



Cookery Culinary Adventures Flavors Gardening Hubby Cooks Life

Naturally, nature does not stop its work while we take a break from ours. While away in California, our little garden had quite a growth spurt. It may have had something to do with the insane heatwave that hogged onto this region for most of last week. Hubby and I did our best to reign in the unruly tomato plants and pick the first few tomato fruits along with the remainder of the peas and a few leaves of basil. Not huge, but the harvest was plenty for us and satisfying because it was ours.


The tomato plants are taller than I am and may even tower over hubby. They must be reaching for sunlight.


There are more to come. I just hope that they don’t encounter the same fate as this one:


It is important that everyone helps. Regardless of the results.



The summer is officially here. My little garden is doing as well as can be expected when its master is not much into weeding. It is very verdant and green. The tomato plans are growing too tall and rather out of control despite my best attempts to tame them. They have tomatoes on them too which I pray aren’t eaten by little predators from the woods that surround us.



I’ve had the pleasure of harvesting our own snow peas. We’re still harvesting radishes, mesclun greens and arugula. Sliced thin, the peas make a wonderful addition to an all-green salad with homegrown lettuces and cucumbers.



As lovely as it is to harvest and enjoy fresh produce, it is infinitely more enjoyable to do so with a little one. Sophia has her favorite spot in the garden (the mint bush). She likes to pick the peas, too. I think we may try to keep gardening next year when she will hopefully be even more excited about all the vegetables.


It has been hot, humid and raining cats and dogs here. The risk of yet another derecho has kept my mind busy with worries. The weather has been quite good for our little garden which has had to fare on its own and is rather overrun by weeds. Who can possibly weed in 90*F weather when the humidity is also 100%? I thought you might like to see what’s going on there after all that rain.

TomatoesFlowering tomato plants. Let us start chanting the “don’t eat my tomatoes” mantra.

PeppersThe peppers are about to flower. I forgot what kind we bought — I like plant surprises.

PeasMy peas gave up on me helping them grow vertically and literally now hold one another up as they climb a loose trellis.

Garden5The herb garden looks delectable and like I need to use that parsley a little bit more. Maybe a chimichurry sauce for this weekend.

SaladeThat’s all arugula and mesclun greens. Help! They’re overgrowing and something is also eating them with vigor.

HomegrownSaladThat’s why the arugula had to become this salad. The Chinese chives are also running wild and rampant in our garden right along the mint. I am pretty sure there is a plant war going on there and the mint maybe winning. Time to help the chives and make a few mojitos.







Cookery Flavors Gardening

Just the three of us and just three days off. Memorial Day weekend came and went and I am here to report that we had a great time. First and foremost … as this dictates the fun-levels when hanging out around the house is weather. The rain held off as did the heat and the humidity. We spent hours outside at the playground, visiting the zoo, our local pool (we didn’t go in, but went to re-acquaint ourselves) and gardening. I finally planted those tomato and pepper plants and tried my best to fortify the garden to prevent little rabbits and chipmunks from snacking on our goodies. Sophia’s taken a keen interest in gardening and especially loves to smell all the herbs. She happily rips off a little mint leaf smells it and then urges hubby and me to follow suit. I hope this will help educate her that our veggies don’t grow shrink-wrapped in the supermarket.


Zoo1We also tried some new recipes like this chicken curry from none other than Bon Appetit.

MDayCurryand these beignets


… getting a shower of cinnamon sugarMDayBeignets2

… and tada!



… they’re light and fluffy and even our youngest gourmand helped herself to one.

But as healthy good as those beignets were, there is nothing like a fresh radish and scallion salad with a touch of sour cream (you can also use yogurt to dress).


I grew up eating salads like this one, and it is just a refreshing and welcoming spring greeting much like the weekend itself.


Cookery Dessert Flavors Gardening Hubby Cooks Life Play

Well… like I told you before, spring came and went. Poof… all gone now. The summer is decidedly here whether we like it or not. It is hot. More importantly, and somewhat disappointedly  — it is humid. Poor little Sophia comes home from her walks all balmy and flushed.

While being outside is loosing its appeal due to the sheer stick-factor, gardening is quickly becoming one of my very favorite things to do. I really do enjoy puttering in the dirt especially since everything is coming in. Well, almost everything. Our shiso seems to have decided not to come up at all. Sigh. Our radishes, arugula, peas, basil and mesclun greens are coming in nicely. I am ashamed to admit that I have yet to plant tomatoes and at this rate, we’ll likely be enjoying them (if the deer don’t get to them) in November :-). Here’s what is going on in our neck of the woods.




I was playing the role of a tablescape designer for my brother-in-law’s birthday celebration. A few people asked about the flowers that I used to create the casual, effortless spring country arrangements. I am no Martha Stewart, but I think they turned out okay.



They were Ranunculus (see below)

and Lilacs. The ranunculus are best when arranged free-form and the lilacs just add an immense aroma. Actually, I forgot all about lilacs and when I smelled them at the store, I remembered where I smelled them last — my Baba’s house. I am now on the hunt for a lilac bush to plant in my garden.

Gardening General Life Past

I would hardly call the suburbs of D.C. a farming sort of a place. However, since we’re really city people, anything outside the busy hustle and bustle of the city may as well be a farm. We embraced creating a vegetable garden last year but it wasn’t the grandest of successes. That’s said, you can’t succeed if you don’t try again and again, and … well, again.

Besides, gardening is quite the family tradition in our families and traditions are best passed down.

Our Gentleman Farming Past

We’ve decided to give gardening another try and have expanded the space [hopefully] letting our veggies get more sunshine this time around. We also built it out with 2 x 4s and painted them so as to not have the garden stick out like a sore thumb in our front yard.

Building Out the Plot


The weather hasn’t been consistent enough to plant the likes of tomatoes, so we’re focusing on herbs for now.

Lavender and OreganoWe also had a welcome surprise while tilling the garden: our carrots from last year which we planted far too close actually survived the winter and here’s the loot we were treated to:

Last year's carrots, this year's yummies… after I harvested the carrots and planted the herbs and while hubby continued to paint the garden fence poles, I watched little Sophia who had ideas of her own.

Is that a Cookie?